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Scottish school group sits through Sandy

A bonus week in New York seems like a dream scenario for a party of teenagers - but it is an altogether different prospect when an epochal storm is bearing down on the Big Apple.

A group of current and former pupils from Stonehaven's Mackie Academy, along with two staff, had scheduled a week in the city to take part in a law competition.

But the plan had to be ripped up as Hurricane Sandy built up a head of steam. They finally arrived back in Scotland on Monday, a week later than expected.

Acting head Jennifer Macdonald, who was part of the group, told TESS that she had been impressed by the Mackie youngsters' "almost Blitz-type, wartime spirit". After initial anxiety about the coming storm, among parents, and in the party, they found that the part of Brooklyn in which they were staying was not as badly affected as other areas, she said.

"It just felt like a really stormy winter night in Stonehaven," said Mrs Macdonald, who added that recent flooding in the Aberdeenshire town had ensured a strong sympathy with the plight of those affected by Sandy.

The Marriott Hotel where the party was staying became a hive of activity as a temporary base for FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mrs Macdonald "could not praise highly enough" the support her party received from Aberdeenshire Council, which arranged alternative flights and money for the party to see through the week.

The group saw the Rockefeller Centre, Central Park, Fifth Avenue and Wall Street, wandering through busy streets devoid of power and chatting to amiable cops directing traffic.

The Marriott found space to let the stay for an extra week, although all eight female travellers, including Mrs Macdonald and head of humanities Lynda Swanson, had to share a suite.

Now Mrs Macdonald is mulling over how best senior pupils can share their experiences in an assembly.

- Mackie Academy won two prizes in the Empire Mock Trial competition: collectively, the Spirit of New York Award, for the friendliest and most respectful team; former pupil Andrew Dossett was named Outstanding Witness.

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

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